Read The Night Online

Authors: Felicity Heaton

The Night

BOOK: The Night
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The Night

Felicity Heaton

 

 

 

 

The Night

A powerful seventh level wizard, the last thing Zane expected to happen in his life was being cursed, even if he did deserve it. Each night he turns into a cat and remains that way until dawn breaks. His search for a cure uncovered rumours of a powerful witch who might be the only one in the world who could save him. From the moment he set eyes on the beautiful and mysterious Celene, he was lost.

Celene took Zane in without question a year ago and since that night she has been falling for him. Fearing he will leave if he discovers the truth about her, Celene learns all that she can from books and does all in her power to help him, but nothing is working and from daybreak to nightfall she must leave him to fight on alone.

When she realises that time is running out for Zane, Celene redoubles her effort to cure him but his stubborn refusal to tell her anything about the curse only hampers her efforts. But Celene can be stubborn too, and when she finds a slip of parchment with the clue she's been hoping for, she sets about forcing Zane to confront his past.

Will Celene be able to save the man she's come to love? And will Zane finally discover the truth about Celene and break his curse?

 

CHAPTER 1


T
hey say she’s a witch.”

Zane looked across at the old man crouched beside him behind the bush. The man was grinning, a twinkle in his eye that told of mischief. It wasn’t often that he met a self-proclaimed witch hunter but they were usually a little younger and stronger—more able to defeat the people they were going after.

He gave the old man a grim smile in return and then pushed aside the branches blocking his view of the woman. She was standing on the porch of a white wooden house. It seemed to shimmer in the evening light. The trees around it swayed softly in the breeze and the cobbled dirt road in front of it sparkled in the late sun. His gaze lingered on her. She was staring up at the darkening sky, her hands idly smoothing down the long black dress over her slim frame and brushing her blue-black hair from her face.

His eyes narrowed and his fingers ran over his black hair, pushing the long tendrils out of his face so he could see her better.

“A witch?” He paused and raised an eyebrow as she descended the three stone steps to the path that snaked through the small garden to the road. She carefully bent down and placed several shallow bowls onto the raggedy lawn. “But she is too young to be a witch. She is barely in her twenties. Even if she were, she would surely be in training by now, not up here alone in the Waning Woods.”

“And they say that those cats she feeds each night... aren’t cats,” the old man continued as though he hadn’t spoken at all.

Zane turned to look at him again and frowned now. There was far too much excitement in the man’s eyes. He looked back at the woman as she emptied some meat into the bowls and then sat down on the bottom step of the porch, gathering her skirt up to reveal bare feet and hugging her knees. Cats appeared from the dense dark words around the small clearing in which the house stood. It was as though they had been waiting for her.

His gaze moved back to the man again. The strange excitement still glimmered in his eyes.

“They be spirits,” the man whispered, as though he feared angering them by speaking those words.

Zane chuckled quietly.

“Now you are definitely talking rubbish.”

The man frowned, all enthusiasm drained from his face and replaced with confusion. “Now I’m speaking rubbish?”

“Of course... after all... she is a witch.” Zane grinned. His teeth extended into sharp canines and he grabbed hold of the man’s arm to stop him from leaving. “Thank you for telling me everything I needed to know.”

His hand clamped down over the man’s mouth at the same time as his teeth punctured his neck.

He hated it when they tried to scream.

When the old man’s body went limp in his arms, Zane released him and let him fall to the floor. The man’s eyes fixed on the darkening sky in a sightless stare, his mouth open in a soundless scream. Zane spat the blood out onto the floor and then wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. He was thankful that the man was quiet now. All evening he’d talked. It had been difficult to resist killing him straight away before he had proof that the man was after the witch.

“Such a hard sufferance for such little information,” he said to no one in particular and sighed.

His attention drifted to the woman. She was still watching the cats. He remained hidden in the bushes as she stroked the one nearest to her, smiling warmly as it wound itself around her leg.

“Spirits.” He shook his head and stood when she went back into the small cottage.

A noise made him look away from the door as it closed and he frowned at the ginger cat staring at him.

It hissed.

Zane hissed back.

The cat gave him a disgruntled look and slunk off into the shadows. When the path was clear, he made his way across the road and over to the house, keeping to the increasing shadows and heading for the back garden. He moved silently up the steps to the back door and paused with his hand over the doorknob. Spirits? He shook his head again and slowly turned the knob. It eased open and he smiled at the fact it wasn’t locked.

He slipped inside and froze as a noise came from the adjoining room.

Casting a glance around the room he was in, he ran his eyes over the expansive kitchen and the dirty cat dishes that were now piled up in the sink.

The house looked small from the outside, but in here it was a different matter. Each room was so big that if the magic holding it together wasn’t strong enough, the house would have exploded into one the size of a mansion.

Funny, that someone who had lived alone all these years would need a house so large.

He moved swiftly from room to room, following the sounds of the woman as she moved too, leading him deeper into the house. His eyes scanned over the dark interior, the curtains drawn wherever he went, and the walls covered in old paintings that were so encrusted with the dust of ages that he could no longer see their subject.

He pressed himself flat against the wall as he came to the room she had stopped in. He could hear her moving things around. Glass clinked. Material swished. Paper scrunched.

There was a sound of metal against glass, as though she was stirring something.

Poking his head around the corner, he smiled as he saw that she had her back to him. He slipped into the room, treading on tiptoes across the dark patterned rug that covered the beaten floorboards. A grin crept onto his face as he hunched, his hands coming up as he moved to be within a few feet of her.

She placed an empty bottle down on the cluttered desk in front of her and sighed as she looked at something in her hand. He couldn’t see what it was. Her body obscured it from view. Her other hand reached out to turn up the oil lamp a fraction so the room was brighter. It hurt his eyes.

He raised his hands to strike.

“Did you have to kill him?”

The sound of her voice made him freeze to the spot with his arms still high in the air.

When she turned to face him, tears were shining in her eyes. Zane closed his, hung his head and let his arms fall to his sides. He thought about what he had done and how guilty she could make him feel with a single look. He opened his eyes and brushed the tears from her cheeks with a gentle sweep of his fingers.

His eyes widened at the sight of sharp claws where his fingernails usually were and he quickly moved his hand behind his back, not wanting her to see.

“You know that I had to.” He turned away from her and looked at the drawn curtains. He could feel the night coming. It spoke to him, whispered words that lured him out into the enveloping darkness.

She placed her hand on his shoulder, her feather-light touch telling him everything she wanted to say—she understood that he needed to kill.

“He was sent here you know… told me all about you being a witch.”

“That doesn’t mean he was sent here. The boys around these parts tell tales… in some I am a witch, in others I am cursed.”

“He was sent here. He told me himself that he was a witch hunter. He was going to kill you.” His eyes met hers, his expression serious and not faltering when he saw her tears shimmering in the low light. Her eyes were like diamonds made of ice, lightest blue and sparkling. He had never seen eyes like hers. They were so pale and mysterious.

She was so pale and mysterious.

He looked away as his stomach twisted and knotted, telling him that he didn’t deserve to look at her when he had made her cry again. He always made her cry.

“So you killed him.” There was a note of regret in her voice, as though she felt responsible for the man’s death because he had done it to protect her.

He felt her hesitate and then closed his eyes as she pressed a kiss to his cheek.

“Thank you.”

He could still feel her sadness, as keenly as if it had been his own. He could feel it invading every inch of the room, filling the whole house, or the world. He sighed as he looked at her and found a tear slipping down her cheek.

Zane reached out on instinct, only thinking to check his claws as the tear reached his fingertip. They were gone now, his fingernails returned to normal. The tear rolled onto the pad of his finger and he brought it to him, balanced carefully, a tiny glistening orb that clung to his skin as though it didn’t want to fall.

“I need that.”

Her voice was soft and he heard the clink of glass as she stepped towards him, so close that he could feel her warmth.

He looked at the tear, raising it, and then glanced at her. “This?”

She nodded and held a small phial out to him. It was filled with a rich red liquid that looked like blood. Taking her silent instruction, he carefully brought his finger over to the neck of the delicate bottle and let the tear fall. The liquid darkened to purple.

As she moved over to her desk, he went to the window and opened the curtains. Darkness had fallen and he could see the first of the stars.

“It will be a still night tonight,” she said without looking at him.

“It is always a still night around here,” he replied and his eyes moved back to her. “And there is always a beautiful view of Syrinia from the front porch where the forest drops away into the valley. Why do you not go there? Why remain up here in the woods when the first kingdom is so close by?”

She didn’t answer. She never did. He had tried so many times to get her to go to Syrinia, where she would be safer and surrounded by other magic users. Each time she had given him a solemn look and then continued with whatever she had been doing. The Waning Woods was no place for her. Couldn’t she see that? How many had he killed now to keep her safe? At least a dozen men had died by his hand, all of them bent on capturing her or murdering her because she was a witch. She needed the protection that the seal of the Tri-Kingdom could give her, and to get that, all she had to do was become a witch of Syrinia. He raised his right hand and looked at the mark on his palm, an intricate swirling pattern surrounded by an eternal circle made by a dragon eating its tail. Valunthier. The third kingdom. His home. This mark had meant so much to him when he had attained it. It still meant so much to him.

As she held the phial in front of the light of the oil lamp and swirled it around, he lowered his hand and looked at her profile. The warmth of the light did nothing to colour her skin. She was still as white as milk, her icy blue eyes intent on their work and a small frown wrinkling her dark eyebrows.

His own eyebrows knit together as she turned to face him, holding the phial out for him to take.

“It will not work,” Zane said and wished those words hadn’t caused the new tears he could see welling up in her eyes. She looked so lost, as though what tattered threads of hope she’d been holding onto this last month were finally slipping through her fingers, as though everything rested on this potion.

“I know,” she said in a small voice and glanced at the curtains. She extended her hand a little more towards him. “But try.”

Not wanting to disappoint her, he took the phial and wished it would work, if only for her sake. He couldn’t bear seeing how much it upset her when it didn’t. It was most of the reason he went out each night.

He looked at the liquid. He couldn’t remember the last time she had served him up a purple potion. Last night’s had been black, and the night before that a strange opalescent colour. How many of these concoctions had he drunk since he met her? How many had he made himself before that?

Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath and then swallowed the contents of the phial down in one go.

She took the empty bottle from his hand and he knew she was holding her breath as she waited to see if it would work.

He opened his eyes and looked straight into hers.

“I am sorry, Celene.”

Celene covered her eyes as Zane flung his head back and screamed out his agony at the ceiling. Her heart clenched as she heard his shoes scatter, his claws scratching against the wooden floorboards. She shifted her hands to her ears and buried her fingers into her hair, trying to block out the sound, and squeezed her eyes shut even tighter as she faintly heard his bones shifting and distorting.

BOOK: The Night
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